A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – Jee-woon Kim

For me, there has always been something creepy and disturbing about the horror of Asian cinema, it has the ability to get under my skin and have moments that can actually earn a jump or two from me, so it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I turned to the next title on the 101 Horror Movies list, and settled in for A Tale of Two Sisters.

At its heart the film is a traditional Gothic fairy tale.

There’s a house, which could be equally at home in Korea, on the moors of England or in the Stephen King version of Maine and New England, and in this house is a family. There are two sisters Soo-mi (Su-jeong Lim) and Soo-yeon (Guen-Young Moon) – or is there? – a distant father (Kap-su Kim) and a stepmother (Jung-ah Yum) taking the place of a beloved matriarch.

The film doles out information only as it’s needed, leaving you wondering what’s real, what’s mis-remembered, what’s a hallucination, what’s a ghost, and above all, what’s really going on here in this house and family?

The characters all have guilt, sadness, and secrets. When things start unraveling  I literally sat there, looking stunned and said “What?…”

tale_of_two_sisters1There are some frightening moments, Soo-mi’s dream featuring a woman, with a crooked neck, crawling on the floor, and then climbing atop the bed, with blood and a hand sliding down her thigh. It’s a spooky moment, so is the revelation that a house guest sees a girl under the sink, and then the step-mother is crawling around by it, and you know something is going to happen, you just don’t know what or when. The tension coming from that really put me on edge.

There is also the recurring problem of a locked wardrobe, which initially seems incredibly benign, but quickly becomes a  troubling image, right up to the revelations given to the viewer in the climax.

Editing, pacing, the visuals, they all work on this film, and create a moody atmosphere, that brings the Gothic film to the screen in a truly creepy way.

twosI sat there through the film wondering what was going on, who were these characters, and how many of them are actually real or alive?!?!

I love films like that when a movie keeps me guessing and wondering about things that are going on, in a good way. I get involved with it, and my brain starts puzzling over what I’m seeing, what pieces fit where and who is actually at fault, who has secrets and why.

I quite liked this one, and while I wonder about some things I saw in the film, wondering still how much of it was memory, illusion, or just a dream, it definitely had a lot of things I liked, and of course, a wicked little creep factor.

Did you see it?

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